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U.N.’s Ban cites gains in fighting world poverty

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The world has been able to meet some of the U.N. goals of reducing poverty and raising living standards in developing nations, though some regions like sub-Saharan Africa are not reaping many benefits, the U.N. chief said on Thursday.

There has been “broad progress” in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. The goals are targets adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000 to slash poverty, hunger and disease in poor countries by 2015.

Earlier this week the United Nations announced that developing nations have already achieved their 2015 goal of drastically reducing the number of people without regular access to safer drinking water, though much of the credit lies with India and China.

Last week the World Bank said developing countries appear to have already met the U.N. goal of halving extreme poverty in the world's poorest countries by 2015. That was also mainly due to China's economic boom.

There have been improvements in other areas, Ban said.

“The world has made progress in driving down tuberculosis, with 40 per cent fewer deaths compared to 1990, and global malaria deaths have declined by nearly a third over the past decade,” he said.

There is now “near parity” in primary school education for girls and boys, Ban said, adding that the goal of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 has already been met.

Despite the gains, there are “massive disparities between and within regions and countries,” he said.

“Only 61 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to improved sources of water, while the level in most other regions is 90 percent or higher,” Ban said.

With 2.5 billion people lacking improved sanitation, the world is unlikely to meet the sanitation target by 2015, he added.

“Many people who have escaped extreme poverty are still vulnerable,” he said.

“Their incomes have not risen sufficiently to protect them from shocks, such as the impending food crisis in the Sahel region,” Ban said, referring to the belt of land bordering on the Sahara Desert that stretches from East to West Africa.